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“Watch this guy spend 9 hours scrolling to the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet” plus 29 more VentureBeat


“Watch this guy spend 9 hours scrolling to the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet” plus 29 more VentureBeat

Watch this guy spend 9 hours scrolling to the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 01:33 PM PST

Hunter Hobbs Excel challenge video still

There are new ridiculous challenges popping on YouTube every week. Most of them naturally fall by the wayside. But not much of 2017 had to pass before an absurd tech one showed up: the Excel challenge.

Don’t try this one at home. YouTuber Hunter Hobbs decided he would open Excel and hold the down arrow key until he got to the bottom. As you can see, the video shows him doing everything from eating, to reading, to talking on the phone without letting go of the key. It took him 9 hours and 36 minutes.

The maximum Excel worksheet size is 1,048,576 rows by 16,384 columns (at least for Office versions 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016), per Microsoft’s support page. Hobbs decided to verify this was the bottom in the most manual way he could think of.

From the video description:

The Dumbest challenge ever that someone had to do: No shortcuts(Ctrl+down), no breaks, just trying to reach the very bottom of Excel by holding the down arrow key without letting go…
(Didn’t use Ctl + down on PURPOSE or use something to hold it down, just wanted to make a challenge no one else has done!)

Let’s hope this video doesn’t turn into something others want to replicate. We’re guessing the sheer amount of time dedication will ensure that’s not a problem. If you have 9 hours to kill, do absolutely anything else.

At the start of the video, Hobbs says he’s not sure how he will go to the bathroom. At the end of the video, he recommends not doing the challenge.

Why Garmin gave creative a seat at the marketing table (VB Live)

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 01:30 PM PST


The heart of your campaigns is effective creative — but are your campaigns being stunted by siloed departments? Learn more about how personal tech leader Garmin reshaped their marketing department to gain huge marketing wins in our latest VB Live event.

Register here for free.

During her three years as global digital advertising and social media manager at personal tech giant Garmin, the biggest step for Carla Meyer was breaking down the walls between her department, marketing and creative.

“Garmin had a good creative department, but they weren’t using it for marketingdigital and social,” Meyer explains. “Now we’re able not just to take the TV commercial or print ad and repurpose it; we’re actually able to get custom assets for whatever platform or medium we’re looking at.”

And bringing creative to the table is a strategy that’s paying off significantly. In a recent product launch campaign, the marketing and creative departments worked together to nail down the target audience and develop compelling, precisely targeted content that engaged their audience to the tune of a 9.7x return on ad spend.

Communication, Meyer says, is the simple foundation of their success. “I really think it’s that easy,” she says. “Communication and getting people involved really early on. Bringing creative to the table so they can understand how to apply our media strategy to their creative to get the best product.”

The destruction of silos is the only way to evolve and to stay competitive, Meyers says, as the amount and types of data expands, channels evolve, and customers get more sophisticated.

“People are realizing that creative, media strategy. and data, they all have to be working together,” she says. “At Garmin, we’re definitely all getting on the same page, we’re not working in silos. Now everyone’s at the table — creative, strategy, planning, our buyers, our media partners. We’re all working together to accomplish our goal, and everyone’s communicating and understanding what we’re going for.”

To tackle 2017 campaign planning, she brought together the creative directors, media buyer, and strategy department for a think session with one goal: Here’s what we’re hoping to accomplish from a media strategy perspective based on our marketing goals.

From creative insights to media placement and targeting on their ad platforms, with everyone involved in the planning, the eternal game of Interdepartmental Telephone is eliminated.

“It’s not just one person shuffling a message around to everybody — it’s all the stakeholders actually at the table, creating this campaign together,” she explains, “so we can get to this place where we’re serving really good creative with really strong strategy and really good media placement.”

“That’s how I want to drive evolution this year at Garmin,” she adds. “We’ve come a long way, but we’re always getting better.”

For more on how to drive cross-departmental insight and develop powerful, creative-driven campaigns, join GPS technology giant Garmin and advertising technology leader Undertone in our latest interactive VB Live event!

Don't miss out!

Register here for free.

In this webinar you'll learn how to:

  • Find your customers online and how to reach them
  • Refine targeting and creative with data
  • Leverage creative as the key variable in digital marketing
  • Reach out to influencers, the new gatekeepers


  • Carla Meyer, Global Digital Advertising and Social Media Manager, Garmin
  • Eric Franchi, Co-founder and SVP Business Development, Undertone


Wendy Schuchart, Analyst, VentureBeat

Upcoming HTC ‘Ocean Note’ pictured with secondary ticker display

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 01:19 PM PST

HTC at Mobile World Congress 2015 Barcelona

HTC is holding a launch event on Thursday where it will reveal several phones it plans to release this quarter. One of those handsets, codenamed “Ocean Note,” leaked on Weibo today (via Android Police) with a surprising feature: a secondary “ticker” display located immediately above the screen.


The ticker closely resembles the one found on LG’s V20, and since both devices offer identical 5.7-inch screen sizes and QHD resolutions, it’s quite possible that HTC procured the components from LG subsidiary LG Display.

According to someone familiar with the company’s plans, Ocean Note — one of three “Ocean” phones, along with Ocean Master and Ocean Smart — is an Android 7.0 Nougat-powered device running a Snapdragon 821 system-on-chip from Qualcomm and equipped with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage.

Although it shares the same codename as a concept handset recently seen in an HTC-produced video, it does not feature that phone’s signature capability of a touch-sensitive outer frame.

Still, Ocean Note allegedly contains at least one feature that should make it stand out: the same 12-megapixel rear camera as the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, but with software tweaked by HTC to unseat those models as the highest-scoring handsets in industry publication DxOMark’s database.


Along with Ocean Note, HTC is also expected to reveal the One X10 on Thursday, a 5.5-inch refresh of last year’s One X9. A third, lower-end phone codenamed Alpine may also be unveiled, but HTC is saving its mass market flagship — successor to 2016’s HTC 10 — for a Mobile World Congress introduction.

Xbox One gets new backward compatible games: Dragon Age, Battlefield, and more

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 01:15 PM PST

Dragon Age: Origins.

Get ready to dig through your collection of Xbox 360 games.

Microsoft has made more Xbox 360 hits backward-compatible with the Xbox One. This means that you can put in a disk for a 360 game inside your newer Xbox One console and still be able to play it. You can also install it to your Xbox One if you own it as a digital download. This feature makes long-time Microsoft fans happy, as it gives them a way to play their older games without having to keep antiquated systems.

It also gives the Xbox One an advantage over its competitor, the PlayStation 4, which doesn’t have backward compatibility with the PlayStation 3. Instead, PlayStation 4 owners can pay a subscription ($10 a month) for PlayStation Now, a streaming service that includes hundreds of PlayStation 3 games.

The list of new Xbox One backward compatible titles follows:

  • Battlefield 3 (disk only)
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  • Dragon Age: Origins
  • Ghostbusters
  • Strania
  • The Splatters

Some of those, like the role-playing game Dragon Age: Origins and the shooter Battlefield: Bad Company 2, were among the most popular released for the Xbox 360. And Ghostbusters is one of the better licensed games of the last decade.

At first, the Xbox One didn’t have any backward compatibility. Microsoft was later able to add the feature with a handful of games and has slowly added more since.

Flipboard chases Chinese luxury market with launch of Flipboard China

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 01:00 PM PST

Flipboard sign

Flipboard, to further its appeal among users in China, has established a separate business unit in the Asian country called aptly Flipboard China. The new entity is a joint venture with communication group BlueFocus and will result in a standalone product — essentially becoming its own startup.

Since 2012, Flipboard has maintained an office in China, but it was beholden to the engineering and development whims of its Palo Alto, California headquarters. While there was one app for all countries, China was unique because of regulatory constraints that have hit many tech companies, including Uber and Airbnb, often requiring joint ventures like the one announced today. Now, Flipboard China is free to pursue its own partnerships and infrastructures to accelerate growth.

Flipboard head of marketing Marci McCue told VentureBeat that China is one of the top five countries in terms of app usage, with an average of 6 million monthly users. However, that’s a fraction of the more than 100 million monthly active users worldwide, and there’s still opportunity to grow in China. The new business unit only has jurisdiction around the mainland, so Hong Kong and Taiwan still will be managed by Flipboard’s international team.

Examples of Flipboard's app in China.

Above: Examples of Flipboard’s app in China.

Image Credit: Flipboard China

“It’s a market that needs to be tackled differently in a way we tackle other markets, both culturally and legally,” remarked Hugo Buret, Flipboard’s vice president of business development. “Some partnerships must be tackled with a local entity.” The new autonomous structure means that Flipboard China will establish its own local infrastructure, meaning that the app will become faster due to reduced latency.

Flipboard China’s chief executive Jing Zhao has been with Flipboard since 2012 before moving to Beijing, where he grew the office to 25 engineering, product, and marketing personnel. “There’s a lot more that can be done in the market locally,” he said. “Creating a new company [in China] is basically to accelerate the user base growth. … We need to make independent decisions on the product and infrastructure and have the mindset with the team as being a startup and competing with other fast-paced startups in China.”

Flipboard China's chief executive Jing Zhao

Above: Flipboard China’s chief executive Jing Zhao

Image Credit: Jing Zhao

Zhao shared that changes have already been made to Flipboard in China that resonate better with people there, different from what others outside of the country would see. For example, because Twitter is banned from China, Flipboard has integrated with Sina Weibo and RenRen to provide social media content in the app. Both Buret and Zhao hope that best practices can be shared between Flipboard and Flipboard China.

Another reason to establish a more formal beachhead in the country is to tap into its luxury, or high-end, advertising market. This has been the modus operandi of Flipboard for years: “Brands want to go where there’s high-quality content. They don’t want to be next to a diet ad or a picture of you in a bar. When you have a long-tail of advertisers that number in the millions, you can’t create that type of experience,” company CEO Mike McCue once opined. BlueFocus was chosen because it can help Flipboard tap into the luxury market with its marquee brands and focus on premium products. “BlueFocus works with top brands in the country and they’re looking for a high-quality platform,” Zhao said.

“The partnership between BlueFocus and Flipboard was built to create synergies to the maximum which benefit both parties. The promising China market and the extensive partner network behind BlueFocus will pave the way for the expansion of Flipboard’s business in the sector of intelligent news aggregator in China. We believe this will ultimately bring benefits to its users,” BlueFocus vice president Lucia He stated.

Flipboard China will operate independently as its own startup, including pursuing outside investments and launching new products. Flipboard will maintain an ownership stake and percentage in the entity and there will continue to be a global strategy in terms of partnerships and sales. How much was invested in Flipboard China or equity received was not disclosed.

Starting today, all 25 employees in Beijing will become part of Flipboard China. Zhao, He, and Buret will make up the board of directors.

Force Protection Video Receives Orders from the Arizona Indian Nation, and Multiple International and Domestic Law Enforcement Agencies

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 12:34 PM PST


CARY, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–January 10, 2017–

Force Protection Video Equipment (OTCQB:FPVD) which sells HD body camera systems and accessories for law enforcement announced that it has received orders from an Indian nation in Arizona, additional stocking order from our international distributor and from multiple local law enforcement for LE50 and LE10 on the body camera systems.

We are receiving increased interest from multiple law enforcement agencies and expect to announce additional orders in the coming weeks.

The LE50 AND LE10 cameras are state of the art designed body cameras strategically built around Ambarella chip sets (AMBA).

The LE50 key design features are:

Industry leading record time (10 hours @1080,12 hours @720)
50 hours of standby time
32GB of internal tamperproof storage
White LED illumination
Audio announcements
GPS recording
30 second pre and post record
Integration with VeriPic© Evidence Management Software.

The LE50 was developed using current guidelines that Law Enforcement nationwide have written into their requirements for purchase of Bodycams for their officers. Our camera and software via VeriPic® meets and exceeds these requirements. We are also the first company to build into a Body Camera an audio announcement feature. When the camera first starts to record, an announcement clearly states “ATTENTION AUDIO AND VIDEO RECORDING HAS STARTED.” When the camera’s recording mode is stopped, it clearly states “ATTENTION AUDIO AND VIDEO RECORDING HAS STOPPED.” Our studies show when someone is made aware of a recoding taking place their attitude and demeanor tend to turn more positive and less aggressive towards police officers.

The LE50 uses white diode lighting in our design because of a safety issue. Cameras that utilize IR lighting can be harmful due the brightness of the IR light and the fact that the human eye does not react to this source of light, there is a high probability of whomever looks at these lights can possible damage or injure their sight.

VeriPic® is a leading supplier of enterprise photo and evidence management software to Law Enforcement Agencies, Military, Medical Institutions and Corporate customers. VeriPic© products handle evidence in thousands of criminal cases throughout the country. VeriPic® is the holder of multiple patents for their evidence management solution software.

The Force Protection Video LE10 and LE50 cameras are rugged HD design which incorporates Ambarella (NASDAQ:AMBA) made chips that allow cameras and other devices to record high definition video. It is the chip supplier of the popular GoPro® (NASDAQ:GPRO) sports cameras.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Paul Feldman at FORCE PROTECTION VIDEO EQUIPMENT or email at

Force Protection Video Equipment
Paul Feldman, 919-780-7897

Remi is a smart bedside clock that trains kids to sleep

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 12:30 PM PST

Remi is a smart alarm clock that uses its face to tell kids when it is time to wake up.

Remi is a smart alarm clock that trains your child how to sleep better. Made by Paris-based startup UrbanHello, Remi’s mission is be a friendly companion for a child that tells your child when it is OK to wake up.

The National Sleep Foundation found in a study that two-thirds of children under 10 have trouble sleeping. That can lead to problems such as poor growth, lack of attention, difficulties learning, and even general unhappiness. UrbanHello showed Remi at CES 2017, the big tech trade show last week in Las Vegas.

“Remi tells the kid when it’s OK to stay in bed, or when it’s OK to jump on mommy and daddy’s bed,” said Hervé Artus, CEO of UrbanHello, in an interview with VentureBeat. “It helps parents learn if the child is moving in the right direction when it comes to sleep routines.”

Remi is a smart, scalable bedside clock designed for children from birth to make sleep simple. For the youngest kids, it acts as a baby monitor and speaker. It can record noise and temperature inside the room. For older kids up to 10 years old, it’s like a coach that tells them how to sleep better.

If the clock’s face is asleep, that means the child should stay in bed longer. If the clock is awake and smiling, then it’s time to wake up. Parents can customize the clock’s face and color to mean different things. A certain color might mean that it’s time to brush your teeth, Artus said.

Remi is a friendly companion for your child.

Above: Remi is a friendly companion for your child.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Each morning when the child wakes up, Remi calculates a sleep score, enabling parents to monitor progress to check if the child’s sleep patterns are improving. A sleep log also allows them to track and understand the best conditions for putting the child to sleep, Artus said.

Remi can play nursery rhymes and the child’s favorite songs, stored by the parents, or simply be used as a Bluetooth speaker for streaming from a tablet or smartphone.

UrbanHello has been around for five years in Paris. It previously made a telephone. Remi will be available in the U.S. in April for $99. UrbanHello has seven employees, and it has raised a round of funding. The company is looking for a new round.

Pierre Bitoun, a pediatrician in Paris who’s also a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a statement, “Remi can be very useful to assist pediatric assessment of toddlers’ sleep cycles; parents can show their pediatrician their child’s sleep patterns and the frequency and duration of wakeful periods in the night.”

Remi is connected to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It can play MP3 music, and the app is available on both iOS and Android. Hervé Artus and his wife Catherine started the company in 2012.


The crazy, scary, wonderful future of connected cars

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 12:10 PM PST

Leveraging cars' data will bring them into the Internet of Things.

We were driving at a normal speed in a parking lot in Las Vegas. A sensor in an old and boring minivan was connected to a receiver located on a traffic light, which was also in the trunk of another minivan. The driver was speeding along, glancing down at a display. The car slowed ever so slightly, but it wasn’t being driven autonomously. Instead, the driver was adjusting speed based on a display that estimated how long it would take to get to the light just as it turned green.

We sailed along as though it wasn’t odd to be driving this speed toward a red light. In most cases, human drivers see a red light and we naturally start slowing down. It became a little curious that we weren’t, almost like playing a game of chicken. Just in time, the light changed and we drove by without ever slowing down. It was a simple test, but it says almost everything you need to know about connected cars. They will do things humans would never do, but with clear benefits.

The company behind the test is called Savari, and they had outfitted the traffic light with their V2X (vehicle to infrastructure) equipment. (Curiously, it is in active use already in Las Vegas on public roads, but not for public use quite yet — that’s why we were in a parking lot.) According to company reps, when the car knows the light will change, there will be a 15 percent savings in fuel economy by maintaining speed. Humans don’t have enough data to make these decisions yet. With a normal car, a driver could make the adjustments; a self-driving car would do them automatically.

This is the exciting part about connected cars. A sensor can look in all directions at once, and an on-board computer can make calculations and connect to the cloud in a million ways as you drive. In terms of navigation, it could find road incidents hours away and adjust the route.  There are clear benefits for safety, avoiding traffic jams, and ride-sharing.

In another test, Savari showed how connected cars will help deter accidents. We sped along toward another car, the same minivan. I was in the backseat, wondering how this might work. Just before we reached the intersection, a warning indicator appeared letting the driver know the other car was not going to stop. In another test, the driver braked for a car in front of us after a warning appeared. I’d never seen this before, mostly because a connected car infrastructure doesn’t really exist yet except in places like Ann Arbor, Michigan.

This technology for braking exists today in many higher-end cars using sensors that look for collisions, but the Savari demo showed how it works in a V2V situation. Also, the radars in many cars can be susceptible to fog and other weather conditions. I’ve tested several cars before that used radars for detection, and if there was too much ice on the car, the tech didn’t work.

You can make several interesting conclusions about connected cars and how they will help us. Let’s say most cars are connected to each other. A central server in the cloud could route cars constantly and improve traffic conditions. When any two cars meet at an intersection, both could adjust their speed to avoid a collision. Even pedestrians could transmit a signal. (We tested that scenario as well with a guy carrying a bag on the side of the road.) If someone steps in front of the car, you could get a warning, or a self-driving car could stop to avoid an accident.

Now throw in even more AI. In the future, cars equipped with machine learning could be constantly adjusting their speed. I envision being able to drive much faster in that scenario (as they already do on the safer, more restricted highways in Europe). I can envision fully automated roads built only for connected cars, all of them moving at optimal speeds to reach their destination. I can imagine a car traffic control center that is constantly processing data from these cars and constantly making improvements. I can envision a day when there are no more accidents at all and few fatalities, although there will always be extremely rare and unexpected events.

I liked what Savari is doing and their willingness to do an actual test that even made me squirm a little, even though I knew they’d done the test multiple times already in the same parking lot.

Hearthstone hears you: Designers will answer fan questions in January 13 stream

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 11:45 AM PST

Hearthstone: Mean Streets of Gadgetzan

Fans have concerns, and Blizzard is ready to listen.

Blizzard announced today that Hearthstone’s developers will host a live question-and-answer stream at 9 a.m. Pacific on January 13 on Twitch. Blizzard plans to share insight on the state of the game, the new player experience (meaning how much fun those starting Hearthstone for the first time now could have), and the ranked play system. Game director Ben Brode and game designer Dean Ayala will answer fans questions live during the stream.

Hearthstone has been a big hit for Blizzard since launching in 2014, becoming the leader of the digital card game market. But that hasn’t protected the game from criticism. Fans often have complaints about specific cards, decks, and modes. Communication like this is vital for keeping a good relationship between a developer and its community — and players continue to complain on Reddit and other forums about Team 5 (Blizzard’s group that makes Hearthstone) and how to talks to fans. The latest set of cards, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, launched in early December.

We’re near the end of the of the first standard cycle for Hearthstone, which limited the cards players could use in the standard mode. This means that it has been some time since any cards were banned from standard, which makes it hard for new players to compete with current ones who have spent years earning cards. That problem will solve itself in a way when the standard cycle updates with the launch of the next expansion, but some fans wonder if the more changes are necessary to keep the game accessible.

Other are complaining about the popularity of Pirate decks, which are aggressive, fast-paced, and often frustrating to play against thanks to new cards like Patches, a 1/1 Legendary with charge that helps you build a board of minions quickly. Others are worried about deck-defining cards, like Reno Jackson (which can heal you entire deck if it has no duplicates), going away when the Standard cycle refreshes this year.

Basically, fans have a lot of questions and concerns, so it’s good that Blizzard wants to listen.

The creator of Apple’s Swift programming language is leaving the company

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 11:37 AM PST

At Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Chris Lattner, the creator of and project lead for Apple’s Swift programming language, today announced in a mailing list email that he will be leaving Apple later this month. He will be joining Tesla as the car company’s vice president of Autopilot autonomous driving software.

Lattner has been at Apple since 2005 and is currently senior director of the company’s development tools department, which works on, among other things, Swift, the Swift Playgrounds iPad app that teaches Swift, and the Xcode integrated development environment (IDE) inside of which developers can use Swift. He’ll be passing on the project lead role to his colleague Ted Kremenek, Apple’s senior manager of languages and runtimes.

Lattner is leaving in order to “pursue an opportunity in another space,” he wrote in the email. Although he won’t be inside the company going forward, Swift is after all an open-source project, unlike its predecessor, Objective-C, and as such Lattner will be able to and in fact will keep participating, specifically as a member of the Swift core team, he wrote in the email.

Still, the company is losing a key figure who has headed up the company’s most prominent open-source project in recent memory. Swift is the 24th most popular project on GitHub based on number of stars.

Apple first introduced Swift in 2014 and open-sourced it in late 2015. With Swift, developers can build iOS, macOS (formerly OS X), tvOS, and watchOS apps.

Lattner first started working on Swift in 2010.

“I implemented much of the basic language structure, with only a few people knowing of its existence. A few other (amazing) people started contributing in earnest late in 2011, and it became a major focus for the Apple Developer Tools group in July 2013,” he wrote on his website.

Swift Playgrounds became available on the App Store in September.

“I hope that by making programming more approachable and fun, we’ll appeal to the next generation of programmers and to help redefine how Computer Science is taught,” he says on his website. “Swift Playgrounds for the iPad is a crucial piece of this: it uses real Swift code to teach programming fundamentals, while also providing a full featured native iOS development experience that allows access to almost the entire iOS SDK. Swift Playgrounds includes high production value assets and curriculum produced by Apple, which provides a appealing and safe introduction to programming concepts for everyone.”

Before arriving at Apple, while at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Lattner started the Low Level Virtual Machine (LLVM), which is now part of the wider LLVM umbrella project that contains compilers and other software development tools. In 2012 Lattner, along with Vikram Adve and Evan Cheng, received the prominent ACM Software System Award for LLVM.

Update at 2:01 p.m. Pacific: Added information about what Lattner will do next.

Virtuleap hackathon generates a bunch of WebVR projects

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 11:30 AM PST

WebVR concept

Virtuleap is running a global WebVR Hackathon that is yielding a wide variety of projects that allow virtual reality apps to be viewed via web browsers. The organizers created it to jumpstart the VR industry by making it much more accessible.

WebVR is an experimental JavaScript application programming interface (API) that provides support for VR devices like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive in a web browser. Conceived in 2014 by Vladimir Vukicevic from Mozilla, WebVR was released in its 1.0 format in March.

Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh, co-organizer of the hackathon, said in an email that concepts submitted so far include a WebVR math tool, data visualization platform, and a hands-free video player. Teams are from the Czech Republic, U.S., Finland, Spain, U.K., and Australia.

“When we first decided to step into this space, in the spring, WebVR was still largely a neglected child,” Bozorgzadeh said. “The hackathon was intended to position a spotlight on WebVR and give it the attention it deserved. The aim of the hackathon is to direct attention to the potential of WebVR being the most practical, accessible, democratic, and natural way for the industry to first emerge. ”

The hackathon runs through February 1. Bozorgzadeh said the themes covered by this initial wave of WebVR submissions are very diverse. They cover education, arts and crafts, engineering, tools, and other categories.

MathworldVR, developed by Prague-based startup Sleighdogs, is a math tool that allows users to “grasp hard, abstract concepts or just play around freely in the math world, where everything can be visualized.” The team was inspired by the work of Seymour Papert, Alan Kay, and Bret Victor.

A team led by Harri Ohra-aho, senior software developer at Finland’s Solita, developed a WebVR solution that offers standardized immersive models for use in planning and maintenance of infrastructure. The user can move freely to view the building structures and get additional information about the materials being used.

The first WebVR game, Sphere Blast, has been submitted by the first team representing Japan.

Virtuleap partnered in December with the New York-based WebVR Hackathon run by Aquinas Training, which allowed the two events to support each other in cross-promotions and sharing resources.

The winner of the hackathon will be announced on February 15. The prizes include a €30,000 in cash and a slot in an Amsterdam-based VR accelerator run by VRBase, the VR co-working space and incubator that launched earlier this year.

The dream of Ara: Inside the rise and fall of the world’s most revolutionary phone

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 11:05 AM PST

The many forms of Ara.

It looked nothing like an iPhone, or anything Apple might dare to make.

On September 10, 2013, the day Apple unveiled the iPhone 5S, Dutch designer Dave Hakkens uploaded a video to YouTube to promote his college graduation project: Phonebloks, “a phone worth keeping.”

Hakkens imagined a smartphone made of interchangeable blocks, and each block — the screen, the battery, the processor, and so on — could be easily upgraded or repaired, so it wouldn’t end up in a landfill after two years.

“In the beginning, we were asking for like 500 supporters,” said Hakkens, but 48 hours later, the video went viral, racking up millions of views — and delivering a jolt to a small technology incubator called ATAP, Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects group.

“Phonebloks was announced, and the world went berserk. If Dave Hakkens hadn’t had this viral video, we wouldn’t have announced Ara probably for at least another year,” said former ATAP design lead Dan Makoski in a VentureBeat interview. “We were outed by Dave, inadvertently.”

The ATAP studio had worked in secret for more than a year on a similar device: a phone made of infinitely customizable parts they called modules. It wasn’t supposed to be a phone you’d queue up in line every year to buy. It was something radically different. Block by block, this was to be a phone you could create.

“Ara Knaian of NK Labs, who the project’s named after, he and his crew had figured out how to actually make it work,” recalls Makoski. The team had already finalized the initial industrial designs for it. “If we [waited] to tell the world that we’ve been working on this, everybody’s going to think that we copied Dave. So we said, ‘Shit, OK, what should we do?'”

“So,” Makoski said, “we just called Dave.”

48 days later, Motorola revealed it: Project Ara.




“Thinking back, I never called it a modular phone,” said Hakkens in an interview with VentureBeat.

“I had an old camera that I broke and I couldn’t really fix it. So I took it apart and I noticed all the components were still pretty good, except for one thing.”

“I thought: Isn’t that weird that we throw everything away just because one part is broken?” said Hakkens.

“At first, I wanted to make a phone that lasts 100 years. But then I realized, I kind of like technology — that it evolves, that it gets better. The only downside is that after it gets better, we throw everything away. I started looking into it, and it generates a lot of e-waste … I mean now we have some devices, but in the future it’s thermostats, fridges, microwaves — everything will be connected. So what if a chip breaks in your fridge? Do you just throw the entire thing away?”

The Phonebloks story spread like wildfire. Gadget blogs covered it en masse, hordes of supporters signed up to support, tweet, and share the idea with a viral marketing tool called Thunderclap, and developers fired back, saying it couldn’t be done — that it was impossible to build. Perhaps they had a point.

“He was just getting destroyed by engineers on Reddit saying ‘There’s no way this could work, right? This is just a pipe dream.’ The way he had designed it was totally unrealistic because he’s an industrial designer and doesn’t, you know, understand the complexity,” Makoski said.

“I didn’t really put a lot of effort into how the thing would look, because I didn’t really care about that. So I sort of stripped it down to the most basic version, which would be blocks,” said Hakkens. “I figured, maybe it’s a good thing to just put it out online to gather people that support it. Then, if you had a lot of support, companies would make it.”

The idea struck a nerve. Only Hakkens needed someone to build it.

Then ATAP called.


When Google’s $12.5 billion Motorola Mobility acquisition closed in May 2012, the maker movement looked like the dawn of a manufacturing revolution. Food trucks swarmed Motorola’s new Sunnyvale, California campus because the cafeteria was still under construction. Incoming CEO Dennis Woodside sought someone to run innovation at the new, Googly Motorola, and the job went to former DARPA director Regina Dugan. “Regina was the soul of ATAP,” recalls Makoski.

Makoski joined with a ticking clock: He had just two years at ATAP because of a rule inspired by Dugan’s time at DARPA, where newcomers were handed a name tag with an expiration date.

“When Regina hired me, I had no idea what I’d work on. You know, I had some thoughts — I had some interests — and I actually sketched out on my first week six different possible ways to go. One of those little sharpie marker sketches, it was kind of a question.”

“And I thought she was insane. But you know, that was the beginning”

“When I look at the highest form of admiration in the smartphone space it was for the iPhone. I love Apple’s design, but I had seen the maker movement, and Maker Faire, and Tech Shop, and these beginning glimmerings of a very different model than what Apple was celebrating. Apple was celebrating the craftsmanship of the perfect object. To me, it was like the ultimate expression of the Henry Ford vision of making one object a million times perfectly.”

“So my question was, What if we did the exact opposite?” said Makoski.

Regina Dugan

Above: Regina Dugan

Image Credit: Facebook

“We started thinking about this idea of extreme personalization. Is there evidence that this is working? We looked at everything from Etsy — we actually did some interesting research on the tattoo space, because that’s evidence of extreme personalization.”

That’s how Project Ara got its first name; before it was Ara, a name inspired by the project’s eventual electrical, mechanical, and software engineering lead, Ara Knaian, Makoski had called it Esprimo — Esperanto for “expression.”

In ATAP’s earliest months, Dugan and Makoski often walked to lunch together, traversing the parking lot to reach the best food truck: Sam’s Chowder Mobile. And during one of these lunch breaks, in line at Sam’s, Dugan had an epiphany.

“‘A food truck,'” Makoski recalls Dugan exclaiming. “‘We should make a factory food truck. Like you customize your meal right here, we should put 3D printers and hackable electronics into a truck, and that’s how we’re going to make this idea.'”

“And I thought she was insane. But you know, I thought about it more, and that was the beginning. It was all about how to create electronics that are malleable and adaptive and personal, and where every one is different,” said Makoski.


Above: The Moduino. One of Project Ara’s earliest prototypes, made out of a Razr phone and an Arduino developer board. It is also credited as the origin of Motorola’s semi-modular Moto Z.

Image Credit: Ryan Lowry, Wired

The slog began.

“We were working on both aesthetic customization and functional customization. I was leading a lot of those design and psychology experiments around, ‘how do we overcome the paradox of choice?'” recalls Makoski.

Ali Javidan, a Tesla engineer Dugan poached to run ATAP’s prototyping shop, was charged with developing it. “His part was much harder than my part, quite honestly. But he got to the point where we took these Razr phones and we took the main application processor and took the leafs off of that, connected it to an Arduino board.” They nicknamed this early prototype Moduino.

It was an omen of things to come

“We, from that August for the next six months, really struggled, quite honestly, because it’s just so freakin’ hard.”

Javidan — charged with developing dozens of projects at ATAP, from touch-sensitive fabric to mobile 3D mapping — was stretched incredibly thin. And Makoski, a designer at heart, did not consider himself technically capable of getting Ara off the ground. Something had to give.

Left: Makoski, Right: Ali Javidan

Above: Left: Ali Javidan, Right: Dan Makoski

Image Credit: Dan Makoski

“At that point, Ali and I, quite honestly, we didn’t feel like we were equipped to shepherd the project.”

“Regina liked this idea so much. And she just believed in people so much, she said, ‘Dan, hire the people, you can be the technical project lead.’ And I honestly — I sometimes regret making this decision — but I just said, ‘Regina, I’m not capable of shepherding this project to life.'”

So Dugan found someone else: Paul Eremenko, who worked on rapid manufacturing at DARPA, joined ATAP in April, 10 months into Makoski’s time at the studio. The project, not even a year old, was under new leadership.

And it was an omen of things to come. The sheer audacity that brought Ara to life — a phone you could create, block by block — made it impossible for Makoski, or anyone else, to succeed. But Eremenko would get close.




Javidan assumed responsibility for managing the shop. Makoski, meanwhile, partnered with Eremenko on the design, cultural, community, and psychological facets of Ara.

“I was in charge of the soul. Paul was in charge of body. That’s how we divvied our time.”

“Paul was always the one with red eyes, hadn’t gotten any sleep, and was always super focused with what he did,” recalls Hakkens. “It was Paul, for me, who was really pushing the project forward.”

“Paul was really ambitious. And he was actually hoping that we’d have something we could get out in people’s hands in early 2014, I guess, initially. That was back in the early days,” said Makoski.


Above: A factory on wheels.

The team hired another key contributor: Jason Chua. He was a Stanford graduate who had cofounded SparkTruck — a project to connect students with maker-movement supplies, like 3D printers and electronics. Chua and Makoski set out to build Dugan’s factory on wheels to test the team’s early experiments at scale.

That summer, as Makoski and Chua drove 12,683 miles across the U.S. in a Velcro-clad van testing Dugan’s food truck epiphany with real people, Eremenko stayed home, creating the technical infrastructure for a malleable smartphone.




Even as Makoski and Chua drew crowds testing the thesis behind Ara, back home in Sunnyvale, the audience was far from enthusiastic. According to Makoski, Motorola’s then-CEO Dennis Woodside was rather unimpressed by Ara’s initial prototypes.

Before Phonebloks went viral, “He was like, ‘Yeah, cool guys, that’s interesting, but you know this maker thing is kind of niche. No one’s really going to care,'” said Makoski.

“Holy shit, you guys have actually been working on it. Like, this could be real”

Motorola’s engineering VP, Iqbal Arshad, had advised on the project early on, and his team helped Javidan and Makoski put together their first prototypes. But Ara would be shrugged off as a side project by Motorola.

“[Arshad’s] a really good guy, but when Google had taken over Motorola, he was trying to focus his engineering resources on just a couple of things that were really going to move the needle. I mean, his whole focus was on the Moto X at that point,” recalls Makoski.

“He was like, ‘I don’t have time for your crazy modular thing. That’s totally insane, architecturally.'”

Another early Ara prototype

Above: Another early Ara prototype

Image Credit: Phonebloks

After a summer of working cheek by jowl, Makoski and Chua’s cross-country tour came to an end and Eremenko finished laying out the core technical details of Ara — a “packet-switched network on a device,” printed on 3D printers and held together by experimental EPM magnets under development by Ara Knaian.

Then Hakkens went public with Phonebloks. His bold idea took off like a rocket.

Flooded with interest, Hakkens spoke with several companies, but Google, in particular, got his attention. “Google was really persistent,” he said, “and they mentioned that ‘we’ve been working on a project like this — would you like to come and see and maybe we can do something together?'” ATAP flew Hakkens from Rotterdam to Motorola’s Sunnyvale campus.

“We just walked him through what we were working on, and he was just like, ‘Holy shit, you guys have actually been working on it. Like, this could be real,'” said Makoski. It was September 2013, and Makoski had less than ten months remaining in his two-year tour at ATAP.

“I know Google doesn’t necessarily care about the environment, but still I liked what they were doing. So instead of working for Google, it seemed to make sense to stay independent from them,” said Hakkens. “In the end, [I] wanted to support other modular phones. Not just Google.”

“I’ll just say we left those two days of meetings with Dave suggesting a [consulting] price that was just ridiculous to us, and us offering Dave to join Motorola,” said Makoski.

Hakkens turned them down.

That seemed like it would be the last ATAP would hear from him.

“He just wanted to stay independent. And we said ‘good luck.’ It was friendly, but not finding a way to collaborate,” said Makoski.

Then, “literally 48 hours before the Thunderclap [marketing push] was to go out, Dave called us and said, ‘Hey guys, I have a proposal: How about you guys just pay me for my time to tell your story, and I use the Phonebloks community as a place where you guys can get feedback on what you’re trying to do’,” said Makoski. "And that was acceptable to us. So we said great.”

On October 28, 2013, Motorola unveiled Ara.




In Motorola's announcement, Eremenko posed a gutsy question: “How do we bring the benefits of an open hardware ecosystem to 6 billion people?” Six billion — a very, very large number.

He painted the project in brilliant, broad strokes on the company’s blog.

“Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers, and their phones. To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it.”

motorola project ara 1

Above: The first public designs of Project Ara, released with Motorola’s announcement. Makoski originally opposed showing the seams of each module — that was Eremenko’s idea.

Image Credit: Google ATAP

“We all went home after we announced,” recalls Makoski, “and then we all came back two hours later and the world just went psycho. I don’t think we expected the amount of interest. Even Woodside — who was lukewarm … when we had showed him stuff before we announced publicly — the week after we announced, Dennis was like: ‘We’ve been proudly working on this…'”

Ara had appeared out of nowhere — just 48 days after Phonebloks’ viral hit — and the optics couldn’t be stranger. From outside ATAP, the arrangement was incredibly opaque. Motorola appeared to have copied Hakkens, even as Eremenko said otherwise. But Hakkens had never contributed to Ara, the phone — neither the hardware nor the software.

“He basically became a journalist,” said Makoski. “He would come in every couple of months and update his readership and the broader world about what we were doing. He’s a storyteller.” Hakkens hoped other companies would partner with Phonebloks, but the surrounding confusion muddied his vision.

“One of the things we did wrong, or could have done better, was that everybody thought Ara was Phonebloks,” said Hakkens. “I think everybody thought we were bought out by Google … so we kind of lost our independent image. And companies wouldn’t get in touch that much anymore.”

But Hakkens did something crucial for Ara; he dragged it out of the shadows and forced ATAP to develop the project in the open. Within the tech industry, all eyes fell on Ara and ATAP.

More remarkable was Project Ara’s starting price

When Google sold Motorola to Lenovo that January, it held onto ATAP and Ara — a shining light of innovation at an advertising behemoth.

As one might expect, Google’s absorption of ATAP had side effects.

“In some ways, it let us preserve our charter,” said Makoski. “And actually, there were some internally that said it was this project, Project Ara, that was the one that ended up keeping us [at Google], because it generated so much enthusiasm in the technical world.”

Others say Google held Ara back. “The pace and scale of contracting that we did all of the sudden really slowed down [after the acquisition],” said one source, who requested anonymity. “The model of ATAP is based on really rapid contracts, like DARPA. There were 150 people working on Ara before we transitioned into Google. And only 3 of them, or 4 of them, were Google employees. All the rest were external contractors,” said the source.

“To us, it just felt like we had just kinda hit molasses. And I think, to Google, it felt like they were being uncomfortably sped up,” the source said.

When Ara was announced in October 2013, Eremenko told the world that ATAP would release Project Ara’s Module Developer’s Kit (MDK) early the next year. And in February, in a lengthy Time profile, he promised a basic commercial release for the first quarter of 2015.

All of these modules will make up a smartphone.

Eremenko imagined doing “for hardware what the Android platform has done for software,” but more remarkable was Project Ara’s starting price: $50.

Eremenko sought to build a phone that was customizable beyond any electronic device ever created. You could pick the features, decide when and what to upgrade, and (within reason) pay whatever you wanted.

For $50, the starter phone would ship with only the most basic features — not even a 3G modem. But that same phone could be enhanced and evolve to incorporate technological improvements over time. Premium modules, like a bigger battery or a high-quality camera, could transform that smartphone from an obsolescence timebomb into a worthwhile investment.

“We had a philosophy that this phone was not for the iPhone-carrying, latest Samsung Galaxy-carrying smartphone owner in the U.S.,” said Makoski. “We wanted to bring access to the internet, to the smartphone space, to those who previously didn’t have it. And part of the ways to do that is to create a platform where an India telecom could put customized radios into Ara for a $50 price point or a $100 price point, or it could scale all the way up to something for Latin America or the U.S.”

ATAP released Project Ara’s developer kit one month behind schedule, in April 2014 — the same month Google teased its legion of fans with a prototype of Ara’s main Endo module.

Two months later, ATAP started accepting applications for Ara developer boards. The team was in full swing, determined to make Ara real. And Ara’s biggest supporters were certain it soon would be.

And then Ara lost one of its founders: Makoski’s two years were up. Meanwhile, Eremenko had 13 months to go.

On October 29, 2014, Google released a video of its first working Ara prototype. Soon after, in January, the company shared a second clip, this one showing Ara with a 3G modem and a swath of modules across every category, from miniature piano keyboards to heart rate monitors, all clad in vivid colors and personalized with photos.

Another goodbye brought Ara’s myriad designs within reach. Eremenko cut ties with one of Ara’s earliest supporters, 3DSystems, scrapping the project’s dependence on rapid 3D printing for a dye sublimation process. 3DSystems’ printers were too slow, and the new system could adorn modules with selfies and pets.

Eremenko fought to release Ara into the world before his final days at ATAP, but he lost faith as the project’s timeline shifted stubbornly into the future.

“I remember from the beginning that Phonebloks was like a 10-year vision or something like that. And then Google said, ‘Alright, we are going to do it in two years,’ which seemed super ambitious,” said Hakkens.

“Once we had figured out that we could pull it off technically, we just needed to line up all of the silicon providers, etc., to get it all working. And then there were all different types of roadblocks,” said Makoski. “Everything from the EPM magnets not going to the strength we wanted to some of our partners requiring all kinds of business relationships that maybe we weren’t ready to give. I can’t really comment on that stuff, partly because I don’t know it that well.”

ATAP planned to launch a market pilot outside the U.S. first — in a South American country that shared a timezone with Google’s headquarters, like Ecuador or Argentina. The pilot, as promised by Eremenko in the pages of Time magazine, was slated for release for sometime in 2015 — ATAP never said when exactly, but the studio eventually settled on a location, Puerto Rico.

“We just said, “Let’s use Puerto Rico’ because it has a similar regulatory regime as the U.S., and if we can do something in Puerto Rico than we kind of check the box that, if we wanted to, we can scale in the U.S. market (and also in Latin America),” explained Makoski.

But the phone wasn’t stable or sturdy enough; the project needed yet more nurturing, and Ara once again missed a shipping window.

In June 2015, Eremenko left ATAP. His two years were up, and Ara faced more uncertainty than ever.

The next month, Google canceled the Puerto Rico pilot and promised an Ara release in 2016. “It’s difficult for a project like this to have a good estimate of where you’re going and when it’s ready. I remember telling them a couple of times that they really shot themselves in the foot by mentioning something like that,” said Hakkens.

And Project Ara, without a leader, changed hands again. This time, Dugan took charge, with Motorola veteran Rafa Camargo, and the team went quiet to rework Ara, leaving many developers, and Hakkens, in the dark.




At the start of 2015, Eremenko’s dream of a $50 phone had evaporated. “The evolution of what Ara was supposed to be had changed so much because of the big question mark around what consumers actually wanted,” a source who worked on Ara told VentureBeat. “And a $50 [smartphone] is just not technically possible. That’s the truth. Anybody who makes smartphones can tell you that.”

So Ara pivoted.

“I felt like it was the biggest opportunity that I had ever been presented”

Under Dugan and Camargo, Ara morphed into a high-end phone with all the essentials built in. Ara lost its ability to serve different price points, but the project gained focus. It was designed to push the limits of what a smartphone could be with modules that add entirely new features, like super-powered Lego blocks.

Imagine the modules developers might dream up. There were the obvious ideas, like specialized cameras and high-end speakers. But modules could get stranger, wilder, too. One module idea, in particular, frequently derailed meetings inside ATAP’s walls, as studio leaders strained to picture a module gold rush akin to Apple’s App Store.

“One of the modules that we were working on was basically like a tiny aquarium for your phone,” said the source. “It was a little tiny biome that would go inside of a module and it would have a microscope on the bottom part, and it would have live tardigrades and algae — some people call them water bears. They are the tiniest living organism. We had this idea to build a tardigrade module and we’d build a microscope with it. So you’d have this app on your phone and you could essentially look at the tardigrades up close and watch them floating around.” Brooklyn-based art, design, and technology agency Midnight Commercial conceived the idea, and was commissioned by Google to build it, demonstrating the depth of what developers could create.

Enthusiasm inside ATAP climbed as 2015 advanced. “It was very much balls to the wall, let’s go. Let’s make this happen. It was very fast. It was super exciting. Really, really exciting,” said the source. “The way [Dugan] presented it and the way she talked about it, I felt like it was the biggest opportunity that I had ever been presented.”

But while Ara’s team grew, Larry Page and Sergey Brin sought to slim Google down. The pair created a parent company named Alphabet, split most of Google’s wild bets, like internet balloons and smart thermostats, into separate companies, and put Sundar Pichai in charge of Google.

ATAP remained at Google, closely guarded by Dugan, and Pichai hired Motorola president Rick Osterloh to make sense of Google’s fragmented hardware projects. Increasingly known for duds like Glass and the bowling-ballish Nexus Q, Google had to get serious about hardware.

Then in April 2016, one month before Ara’s biggest-ever reveal, planned for Google I/O, Dugan suddenly left.

She was hired to lead Building 8, an undefined company created by Facebook with “hundreds of people and hundreds of millions of dollars” at her disposal, Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook page announcing the appointment.

“When she left, there was essentially a leadership vacuum,” a source said. “Because there wasn’t a champion for Ara, someone who could really go to bat for it, I think it just fell down the priority list. And if you look at the LG [G5] phone, it just didn’t do very well. If you look at the other attempts at modularity and try to get a feel for the market, there’s just not a lot of good signals out there.”

In August, the Ara team was tracking to ship Ara to developers in late 2016 and to the public in 2017. Then Osterloh’s axe fell. Ara was “suspended.”

News of the cull rang out like a sudden alarm in the ears of Ara’s staff, who had continued to toil in Dugan’s absence. And Ara’s remaining loyal fans, worn out by years of delays, mourned the news on Twitter. Perhaps more than anyone else, the news pierced the heart of Dan Makoski, who walked the streets of Palo Alto that night in disbelief that Ara was really, truly gone.




Ara has laid dormant for five months — the prototypes locked away from developers as a fraction of Ara’s remaining team stayed to wind down the project. Some later rejoined Dugan at Building 8. Others went on to other projects at Google.

Google may someday license or sell Ara. The company has hinted it might, yet throughout Ara’s evolution there was always a missing piece. “Consumers don’t care about modularity,” said the source who worked on Ara. “And even today, I’m still not sure that it’s something that consumers want.”

Makoski thinks otherwise.

“I feel like Project Ara, if it does get shelved, it’s a shame that they didn’t have the courage to go all the way and fail a couple of times at a commercial release to get it over the hump. But I think the industry will. And hopefully I’ll be alive to see that. I’m only 42 … I still believe.”

GoFundMe acquires CrowdRise to go deeper into the charitable giving space

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 11:00 AM PST

GoFundMe homepage

GoFundMe on Tuesday announced the acquisition of CrowdRise, which will see the social fundraising platform extend to charities and nonprofits. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but CrowdRise will remain fully operational and act like it normally has, just with a new parent company.

“GoFundMe aims to be the giving layer of the Internet. By joining forces with CrowdRise, we can offer both people and organizations the right fundraising strategy for any sort of cause they care passionately about,” stated GoFundMe’s chief executive Rob Solomon.

CrowdRise was founded seven years ago by actor and activist Edward Norton, producer Shauna Robertson, and Robert and Jeffrey Wolfe. It now has more than 1 million members and 20,000 charities on its service, with more than $500 million raised to date for nonprofits. Norton once shared that he felt the traditional, real-life ways of raising money for nonprofits was “faulty” and that existing tools just weren’t catering to charitable giving. CrowdRise sought to be more accommodating, but it wasn’t without some criticism.

One way to view this consolidation is that GoFundMe is moving away from just being a peer-to-peer fundraising platform to now also include charities and larger campaigns. It would seem that GoFundMe wants to tackle all manner of social giving, be it helping someone through a difficult time or supporting bigger causes that affect a wider group of people.

This is the first large acquisition made by GoFundMe. Prior to its acquisition, CrowdRise had raised more than $24 million in venture funding from investors like Union Square Ventures, Bezos Expeditions, Index Ventures, Spark Capital, Lightbank, CAA Ventures, and United Talent Agency.

Plume Labs’ Flow tracks the air quality indoors and outdoors

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 10:30 AM PST

Plume Labs' Flow can detect air quality.

Plume Labs unveiled its Flow air-quality tracker last week at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas. It is one of many air-quality trackers, but this one has an interesting twist.

Plume Labs' app can build a map of where the air is the best in your city.

Above: Plume Labs’ app can build a map of where the air is the best in your city.

Image Credit: Plume Labs

One Flow device can scan the quality of air in your home or around you. But a bunch of Flows spread across your city can eventually create a crowdsourced map that shows where the air quality is best. You could then route your way to work based on the best air quality along the way.

When you open the Flow app on a smartphone, you can see the air quality in your home and watch how it changes over time. But the Flow device is small and portable, so you can also take it with you to monitor your exposure to air pollution while you’re away from home.

Flow’s companion mobile app and environmental artificial intelligence helps you monitor what you’re breathing, build healthier routines, and map air pollution to find breathing spaces in your city.

And that can be important. Air pollutants from car exhaust cause more deaths in the U.S. every year than road casualties, according to a 2013 MIT study. But the technology industry hasn't yet given consumers the tools to take control of their environmental health.

With Flow, users can finally track all major pollutants that cause harm to their health and act to avoid them with real-time updates from the app. Over the past two years, Plume Labs developed Flow's sensing technologies and environmental AI in partnership with world-class environmental researchers, such as France's CNRS-LISA and Imperial College London.

By wearing Flow on their bag, purse, bike or stroller as they go about their day, users can contribute to a live air map, reporting hotspots so other users can avoid pollution. Plume Labs partnered with global design and strategy firm frog. The two teams worked together in frog's London studio, researching users’ needs for personalized air quality advice and testing their designs with the community of people who use the Plume Air Report, Plume's flagship air quality forecasting app.

Romain Lacombe, CEO and cofounder of Plume Labs, said in a statement, “After two years of work, we're very proud to introduce Flow and its potential to help people avoid air pollution. At a time when the dramatic health impact of unclean air is becoming ever more clear, we are confident that our product will help a wide community of users around the world enhance their environmental health, and help us all tackle the urban air pollution crisis."

The device senses particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ozone (O3), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), temperature, and relative humidity and gives you feedback on the level of pollution through 12 multicolor LEDs.



Microsoft’s new privacy dashboard lets you manage location, search, browsing, and Cortana data

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 09:45 AM PST

Windows 10

Microsoft today launched a privacy dashboard that lets you manage and review all the activity data collected about you through its various products and services. The company also detailed privacy improvements coming as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update.

The privacy dashboard is web-based, meaning you can access it from anywhere with your Microsoft account by just navigating to The dashboard lets you see and control your activity data including location, search, browsing, and Cortana Notebook data.

Microsoft says this is the first step in “expanding the tools that give you visibility and control over your data spanning Microsoft products and services.” The company plans to add more functionality and categories of data over time, but wouldn’t commit to any specific schedule.


As for the upcoming privacy changes to Windows 10, Microsoft is promising a new privacy setup experience, simplified Diagnostic data levels, and a reduction of the data collected at the Basic level. The company plans to introduce these changes in a Windows Insider build coming “soon” and promises they will be rolled out to everyone with the Windows 10 Creators Update.

Windows 10 is a service, meaning it was built in a very different way than its predecessors so it can be regularly updated with not just fixes, but new features too. The next release is the Windows 10 Creators Update, slated for release in “early 2017.”


The new setup experience will replace previous Express Settings. It is voice-capable, and voice data remains on the device as part of the setup process. As you make your choices, Microsoft will share additional information about what impact each choice will have on your Windows experience.


Whether you are moving from Windows 7 or Windows 8, or doing a fresh install of Windows 10, you will be shown settings that you need to choose before you can move forward with setup. If you are already using Windows 10, you will get notifications that prompt you to choose your privacy settings.

The Diagnostic data collection has been simplified from three levels to two: Basic and Full. If you previously selected the Enhanced level, the Creators Update will only let you choose between the two.

Lastly, the Basic level has been reduced to only include that Microsoft deems “vital to the operation of Windows.” This data (the capabilities of your device, what is installed, and whether Windows is operating correctly) is used to “help keep Windows and apps secure, up-to-date, and running properly.” This option also includes basic error reporting back to Microsoft.

Microsoft is patting itself on the back for all these privacy changes:

When it comes to your privacy, we strive to make choices easy to understand while also providing clear visibility and control over your data. We believe finding the right balance is one of our most important tasks in delivering great personalized experiences that you love and trust.

Today, we take another step in our journey to make changes that address your feedback and help make your experience with Windows and other Microsoft products better and richer. We want you to be informed about and in control of your data, which is why we're working hard on these settings and controls. And regardless of your data collection choices, we will not use the contents of your email, chat, files, or pictures to target ads to you.

Together we’re on a technology journey as devices, the Internet, and smart things all around us are changing the way we communicate, play and get stuff done. At Microsoft, a key part of our journey is engaging with our customers, listening to feedback and trying new ideas.

And yet many will see this as too little too late. If there’s one serious concern that users had about Windows 10, it was regarding privacy, data collection, and Microsoft’s laissez-faire attitude about it all. More than a year later, the company is finally willing to admit there’s always room for improvement.

Hyperloop One has a short list of cities for its 760-mile-per-hour trains

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 09:30 AM PST

Hyperloop One's test site in Las Vegas.

Hyperloop One is working on a transportation technology that can make trains go as fast as 760 miles per hour. The company has raised $160 million in several rounds to build the transportation systems that seem like something out of science fiction.

Despite a lawsuit from former high-ranking employees, the company has moved swiftly to add new executives and expand its search for sites where it can build its lightning-fast transportation networks in cities around the world. (The company denied the allegations and countersued the former employees.)

Hyperloop One continues to build out its 100,000-square-foot Metalworks fabrication facility and 137-acre Apex test and safety site in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Construction of the company’s full-system development loop is underway as Hyperloop One prepares for its “Kitty Hawk moment” in the first quarter of 2017.

Last week, during CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas, I met with Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hyperloop One. We talked about the company’s global challenge contest to find the world’s best Hyperloop routes. The list is now down to 35 possible projects around the world, and some cities such as Dubai are actively pursuing approvals.

More than 2,600 proposals were registered in five months, and the semifinalists come from 17 countries. A handful of finalists will be named by May. Lloyd and I talked about that process, as well as what Hyperloop transportation will mean for society in the future.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hyperloop One, at CES 2017.

Above: Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hyperloop One, at CES 2017.

Image Credit: Dean Takhashi

Rob Lloyd: I'd say, if you go back about six months when we announced the global competition, our idea was to say to the market, say to the world, and all of those we thought were interested in something new emerging in transportation, "Give us your ideas." We saw a constant increase in momentum around participating. A lot of people said, "I'd like to sign up. I'd like to be part of this." We were very impressed. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the submissions. Our team coached many of those entries and helped them go through a template, a format, to come up with those ideas.

We had almost 70 very serious submissions. The top 35, 36, whatever the final number was, really were very interesting to us.

VB: I saw a lot of government money supporting these.

Lloyd: A lot of government support, yes. I think 25 of the 35 ended up with letters of support from local or national governments. We saw a broad community come together to put some of these ideas together. One company sponsored an internal competition, an engineering firm, and made multiple submissions. We saw universities, private enterprises, government institutions.

As we get ready for these workshops that'll occur over the next few months in the regions — we'll have one in India for the Middle East in Asia, one in D.C. for Canada and the United States, and one in London for the U.K. and Northern Europe. We're expecting that a number of those, we'll be able to take them through a deeper analysis, similar to the other studies underway right now around the world.

The finalists in Hyperloop One's contest to build Hyperloop transportation systems.

Above: The finalists in Hyperloop One’s contest to build Hyperloop transportation systems.

Image Credit: Hyperloop One

VB: I was sad that the Bay Area didn't seem to be on the list. I'd expect a very built-out area like that —

Lloyd: All tunneled. I'd intuitively say it'd be all tunneled. It must have been a pretty good year in 2016. Nobody had the time to put that idea together. They might have thought we're already doing it.

VB: Is there a feeling for what's more ideal based on all these submissions?

Lloyd: First of all, a route that makes a lot of sense economically. We worked with each of the submissions to analyze their revenue potential. What is the reality, if it's a passenger route? Can we imagine revenues that would make sense? Is it an economically viable route? Some of them were interesting, but we didn't think they had the potential to be an economically viable project.

Second, was there a realistic environment in which governments would be supportive, or would this take forever? To be part of this next phase, we're looking for those that have government backers, that will try to move more quickly. The study we're doing in Dubai with the transit authority, that's a regulator working with us now, rather than trying to stop it down the road. They're being very collaborative.

Finally, where could we imagine projects could be financed? This is all very interesting, but if you can't create an economic model that would then be a project that could be financed, it's not that interesting. Those three characteristics were part of everything. The entire company came together, including all of our employees from Nevada, and we analyzed these projects. We had engineers working with finance people and everyone else. We were very impressed by the quality of the submissions.

Hyperloop One construction in Las Vegas

Above: Hyperloop One construction in Las Vegas

Image Credit: Joshua Caldwell of Cryptic Butterfly Photography

VB: Do you have any feel yet for how much one build-out will cost?

Lloyd: I told this to our team. I think in supporting and promoting the idea, we've probably spent less than $100,000. The viable pipeline of opportunities that have been submitted is in the tens of billions of dollars. That's a pretty good ROI. That's the value of the projects in aggregate. The value to Hyperloop would be a portion of that, as we continue to work on how our business would monetize the different projects moving forward.

VB: What's the status of Las Vegas itself?

Lloyd: It's great. We just had our cofounder and president, Josh Giegel, there this morning. He left at five. It's very cold, by the way, in the desert that early. Great progress. We'll be bringing together and doing a full-scale test within the next couple of months. Everything's on track. The tube is there. You can see it from the highway. It's pretty exciting. We have full facilities out there, pumps installed, generator power in. We're getting ready for our Kitty Hawk.

The world is getting increasingly convinced that our company is set up to make this a reality. As we go from CES last year to this CES, it's becoming more evident that this is going to be possible.

VB: How do you get past the initial reaction people have, that this is just science fiction?

Lloyd: You can show a picture or talk about it, but we think the only way to get past the reaction that this is science fiction is just to build it. That's why our company has been so focused for two years on a single deliverable, a milestone that matters. Let's demonstrate a full-scale Hyperloop. When people say, "It sounds phenomenal, but it's too far off," let's show them Hyperloop. In the early part of this year we'll show that the Hyperloop is real and we're the company building it.

VB: What are some more steps on that road map, how a project is going to get built?

Lloyd: With some of the ones we're going through right now, you do an engineering study. You do a revenue analysis. You do an engineering and construction feasibility. You determine whether there's a right-of-way you can obtain, or whether you have to create a new one.

As a template, the project we're doing with the road and transit authority in Dubai, the regulator, we're going through that entire process with outside advisors and specialists to help them determine what would be the most impactful route in Dubai. We're halfway through. Probably in a February time frame, we'll come to a conclusion as to whether it makes sense. If it does make sense, the next step is a deeper level of specific engineering designs, so you can then ask people for a price to build it.

Hyperloop One tubes in Las Vegas.

Above: Hyperloop One tubes in Las Vegas.

Image Credit: Hyperloop One

VB: How many people do you guys have now?

Lloyd: 225. 50 of them are in Nevada, which is pretty exciting for the state of Nevada. We're growing very quickly. I'd expect that we'll end up doubling this year to 500. We're growing more facilities. You're aware of the 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility we have here in Vegas, and the test and safety site. We're making very rapid progress.

We have employees starting to be out there around the world. We've hired people looking after our customer engagement, based in London and spending a lot of time in the Middle East and northern Europe. You saw the news on Brent Callinicos, our chief financial advisor, joining us in October. He's very much part of the team that's focused on our series C financing, which we expect in the first half of this year. We'll be in the market raising a couple hundred million dollars.

VB: Do you have any lingering fallout from the lawsuit?

Lloyd: It's funny you mentioned that. It's the first time I've been asked about it today. But to me, that's good. Our objective was to keep focused on progress, and I think where we are today — sitting one CES later from when we first showed up here and talked about Hyperloop — the progress has been amazing. We're pleased that the company stayed focused and continued to deliver on our commitments to make Hyperloop real.

Continue Reading ...

Gears of War 4 gets 2 classic maps from the franchise’s past

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 09:30 AM PST

Squad firefight in Gears of War 4.

Would you like some nostalgia with your chainsaws and shotguns?

Microsoft announced today that Gears of War 4 is getting two maps from the series’ past. The content unlocked today for those who paid for the season pass, and it’ll become free for everyone on January 17. The third-person shooter launched last October for Xbox One and PC. It was one of Microsoft’s biggest releases of the year, especially since it was a console exclusive that didn’t come out for its competitor, the PlayStation 4. New content can keep those who bought the game engaged.

Blood Drive is the first map, and it first appeared in Gears of War 2 (and also showed up in Gears of War 3). You can check out its updated look below.

Clock Tower is the second returning map, which debuted in the first Gears of War (and also showed up in Gears of War 3). You can see how the place has changed below.

Today’s update also adds 280 new cards unlockable through Gear Packs, which players can buy with in-game currency or real money. These unlock new playable characters and weapon skins in Gears of War 4’s multiplayer mode.

Crowdsourced AI-training platform Spare5 rebrands as Mighty AI and raises $14 million from Intel, GV, others

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 09:05 AM PST

Mighty AI

Spare5, a gig economy startup that uses the general public to help train companies’ artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, has today relaunched as Mighty AI and announced a $14 million funding round led by Intel Capital, with participation from other new investors GV (Google Ventures) and Accenture Ventures. Existing investors Foundry Group, Madrona Venture Group, and New Enterprise Associates (NEA) also participated in the round.

Name that object

Above: Name that object.

Founded out of Seattle in 2014, Spare5 has hitherto partnered with big-name companies such as Microsoft, Pinterest, and IBM, among others, who provide the Spare5 community with “tasks” — these generally focus on identifying the meaning of media assets such as photos, videos, and audio. For example, someone may be presented with a picture of a landscape, and they would have to tell the system what the mountain is, and whether the large body of water it identified is a lake. It’s all about improving companies’ in-house AI efforts such as computer vision and natural-language processing.

Moving forward, the company will be known as Mighty AI, and in addition to the funding round, it has signed deals with Intel and Accenture. Both companies will work on behalf of Mighty AI to sell and promote its so-called “training data as a service” (TDaaS) offering to their own customers around the world.

Prior to now, Spare5 Mighty AI had raised around $13 million in funding, and with its latest cash injection it will push to grow its TDaaS platform and network of individuals who carry out the microtasks, according to a company statement. It will also bolster its in-house team of data scientists, engineers, and sales specialists.

AI is increasingly touching on just about every facet of society, from the workplace to customer service and everywhere in between. While AI systems are becoming more intelligent and “aware,” they’re not quite at the stage of being able to teach themselves — there are things that only humans are able to decipher and detect. And this is what Mighty AI is promising companies: human input that’s tailored to suit whatever AI system they’re looking to build.

“In the future, we will count on AI to make every aspect of our lives better,” said Mighty AI CEO and founder Matt Bencke. “AI will manage our information, schedules and energy use. It will make our factories, roads and homes safer and more efficient. It will provide us each with a personal shopper and investment advisor. But, for AI models to do all this and more, they need to understand what and how we think. Mighty AI is the critical link between computer and human cognition, putting the right humans in the right learning loops.”

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Ubisoft will test For Honor in closed beta on January 26

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 09:00 AM PST

The thick of the action in For Honor.

Ubisoft announced today that it will hold a closed beta test for its melee-combat game For Honor from January 26-29.

Players can sign up for a chance to play in the closed beta and compete in the War of the Factions here. Ubisoft said that it will hold the tests on the current-generation consoles and PC.

War of the Factions is a limited-time event that will help answer the question, When the mighty Vikings, deadly samurai, and bold knights finally collide on the battlefield, who will reign supreme? War of the Factions will track all multiplayer activities across all platforms during the closed beta. It will reward players for fighting for their factions and honor the winning faction with additional rewards.

In addition to the War of the Faction rewards, players who participate in the closed beta will also receive rewards. Both sets of rewards will be transferred to the full game.

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal in collaboration with other Ubisoft studios, For Honor is a brutal melee-combat game with a campaign and multiplayer mode. For Honor will be available on February 14.

Robert Scoble, CES madness, and the iPhone 8 rumor mill – VB Engage

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 08:37 AM PST


Travis and Stewart are back with a bang after the holiday break with Season Two of VB Engage! It's exactly like last season but even better, because it's available now.

In this episode, we continue our series of Web Summit interviews with the one and only Robert Scoble, who was carrying a Microsoft HoloLens in his jacket pocket the way you and I would store our smartphones. He gives us the lowdown on the future of VR, AR, MR, and the iPhone 8.

And in the news segment, we focus on CES in Las Vegas. Travis has been walking the floor, checking out all the latest developments, including those in mobile, AI, and the Internet of Things. When you hear just how many devices will be connected by the year 2020, and how they might control each other autonomously, you’re either going to embrace our new overlords or book that one-way ticket to Mars.


By listening to this episode of the VB Engage podcast, you will hear:

  • Welcome to Episode 34 of VB Engage! [00:04]
  • Exhausted… “because 2016.” [00:36]
  • Stewart admits to fully losing his mojo like Austin Powers and needing an extended vacation to recharge. [01:02]
  • Travis and Stewart discuss hilarious "out of office emails." Stewart is notorious for his. [01:15]
  • We are in the first part of 2017. What that means is CES is upon us, and Travis is in Las Vegas. [02:55]
  • It is the 50th anniversary of the consumer electronic show (CES) [03:36]
  • Do people care about CES anymore? [03:50]
  • Everything that's going on at CES is another battleground for marketers to think about. [04:21]
  • All your devices are interconnected, including something we don’t talk about often, internet faucets. [04:45]
  • Samsung made a big announcement about the number of Gear VRs it has been able to “shift.” [05:40]
  • Mobile VR is becoming a prevalent technology. [06:50]
  • Stewart's prediction is that consumer livestreaming 360-degree hardware, at a reasonable price, is going to be available from this spring. [07:35]
  • Livestreaming is something to keep a close eye on for engagement for this year. [08:00]
  • Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all jumped on board with live video. [08:18]
  • Insta360 and Orah are interesting, high-quality 360-degree cameras. [09:40]
  • The number of 360-degree videos that we're going to see from all these locations around the world is going to be pretty fascinating. [10:20]
  • Apps are still the place people go if they want to engage with a brand, but people are using messaging apps more and more, so we must talk about artificial intelligence and chatbots [11:00]
  • Travis sat in on a session with the CEO of eMarketer, Jeff Ramsey, where he was talking about the future and the 35 billion devices that will be connected by 2020. [11:30]
  • Travis states: The triad of tech that will overcome apps is AI, chatbots, and voice. [12:00]
  • Travis went to the Huawei party, where the company announced the Mate 9, the very first smartphone to partner with Alexa and Amazon. [12:30]
  • Conversational UI is going to be huge, especially combined with AI later. [13:30]
  • Travis announces the official release of his book Digital Sense and discusses details of the book. [14:18]
  • And now, the one and only Robert Scoble! [15:50]
  • Robert Scoble is rocking the HoloLens, tired of the old Google Glass. [16:00]
  • Stewart introduces Robert as a HoloLens peddler! [18:25]
  • We discuss engagement, mobile marketing, digital marketing, and community, and how that is all going to change when we're walking around with mixed reality headsets. [18:40]
  • Robert has multiple sources who believe the next iPhone is going to be “clear” with 3D sensors that are so sensitive they can see your heart beating. [18:55]
  • Computing is about to change from being something you do to something you wear and can carry with you everywhere. [19:13]
  • Scoble believes that in the next five years, or perhaps even a year from now, we're going to see full mixed reality that's going to be mind-blowing. [20:22]
  • Apple has been building this for six years, and it has been holding back a lot for its next iPhone. [20:35]
  • Scoble says that every brand is going to have a virtual component and a physical element, though some brands might be entirely virtual and some might stay in the past. [20:50]
  • Sephora, for example, is making augmented reality makeup for your iPhone, and soon for mixed reality glasses. [21:00]
  • What are the advertisements of the future going to look like? [22:28]
  • The key here? Prepare for the VR world by getting a virtual reality system today. [22:55]
  • Scoble recommends HTC Vive for people to get used to what VR means and learn to code in Unity. [23:10]
  • Stewart did research on what consumers are likely to buy, which includes PlayStation VR. [24:20]
  • By the end of 2017, Scoble believes the iPhone is going to match the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. [25:30]
  • HoloLens is cordless and its batteries last hours, but it is heavy. It needs to be smaller, cheaper, and faster. [25:55]
  • Qualcomm has a “sugar cube,” which has a processor, GPU, and storage all in one tiny unit. Stewart hopes Qualcomm doesn't make it look like a sugar cube, or it'd accidentally end up in a cup of coffee. [27:38]
  • Marketers are not sure if they can show ROI on AR/VR yet. [28:10]
  • Shopping malls are already building apps for virtual reality. Westfield’s labs have already talked to Scoble about mixed reality applications. [30:55]
  • Imagine using MR in a mall with the “clear iPhone,” asking Siri where a particular pair of blue jeans are, and a line shows up on the floor to take you to the destination. [31:25]
  • Scoble's new book called, The Fourth Transformation covers many of these topics. [32:05]

Next week, we talk with Katia Beauchamp, the CEO and founder of Birchbox, which was the first subscription box service startup: A great interview from our continuing Web Summit series. You'll want to join us for that — we could have talked with Katia for hours!

If you missed the last episode of 2016 with Paddy Cosgrave, the founder of Web Summit, you can listen to it right here. And to start 2017 off right, you should subscribe to VB Engage below, and give 5-star ratings to everything you review for the next week or so, because that’s a great resolution to have!


MyndBlue Elects Serial Medical/Digital Health Entrepreneur Nancy Briefs

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 08:34 AM PST


BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–January 10, 2017–

MyndBlue, an mHealth company that has developed a wearable-but-discreet medical device which is designed to detect a relapse of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in advance of a crisis, announced today that it has elected Serial Medical/Digital Health Entrepreneur, Nancy Briefs, as a director.

Ms. Briefs’ career includes 30 years as an Entrepreneur, CEO, Angel Investor, Independent BOD Member and Business Advisor. In 2011 she co-founded InfoBionic, where she served until recently as CEO. InfoBionic is an mHealth company that is disrupting the $3 billion global market for remote monitoring and detection of arrhythmia with its proprietary MoMe® Kardia system.

“We are extremely pleased that Nancy has joined our board,” said MyndBlue founder and CEO, Dr. Denis Fompeyrine. “She understands well that early-stage investors quickly comprehend the value proposition for MyndBlue, a potentially transformational paradigm for treating mental health disorders.”

Presently, Ms. Briefs is Entrepreneur in Residence at M2D2 UMass Lowell, and an Angel Investor with MA2. From October 2011-2016 she served as CEO of InfoBionic. Previous director responsibilities included CardiAQ Valve Technologies (sold to Edwards) and Medical Device Manufacturers Association (MDMA).

MyndBlue allows doctors, for the first time, to use predictive markers to remotely detect evidence-based, early-warning signs in their patients of a likely relapse of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) well before a crisis occurs. MDD and PTSD are treatable. Unfortunately, an overwhelming majority of these patients continue to suffer because they have no foreknowledge of a coming relapse of MDD and PTSD: They may have discontinued drug therapy or have ceased doctor visits. Now, via a discreetly wearable device, MyndBlue identifies specific predictive markers that detect instantly a patient’s disease-status changes and needs, signaling his/her doctor immediately for intervention, before a relapse of MDD and PTSD occur.

NOW, A NEW PARADIGM FOR MENTAL-HEALTHCARE: PREDICTING RISK AHEAD OF TIME. MDD and PTSD directly affect 24 million patients and their families. We know the toxicity of the diseases over the long term, and the irreversible sequelae they generate. The challenge is to free these millions of people from this disabling and dangerous mental suffering before they “cross over the line.” What is missing in the existing therapeutic arsenal to fight more effectively against these pathologies? Monitoring to detect the risks of MDD and PTSD crises ahead of time. For the first time, meaningful data can be measured in real time, very precisely, and on the basis of a clinical selection of biometric parameters directly associated with these pathologies of MDD and PTSD. A doctor is not permanently present with his patient; MDD and PTSD appear sneakily and trigger suddenly.

CAUTION: The MyndBlue technology is approved for investigational use only.

Ronald Trahan Associates, Inc.
Ronald Trahan, APR, +1 508-359-4005, x108

Triseum starts pilot test for Variant: Limits calculus game

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 08:01 AM PST

Variant: Limits comes out in the spring of 2017 on the PC.

Triseum is announcing today that Variant: Limits, the first game in a series that teaches students how to learn calculus in a fun way, is launching its pilot program test in selected schools.

Variant: Limits, our new 3D adventure game that teaches calculus concepts focused on limits.

Calculus is critical for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. But 38 percent of students drop out of it, according to the Mathematical Association of America. So the Bryan, Texas-based company made a game to help students retain the concepts better. Triseum is the latest among many game companies and education firms to try their hand at creating "edutainment," or educational games that are fun.

Schools that are interested in piloting Variant: Limits can apply through the Variant web site.

Triseum's founders came from the Texas A&M University's Live Lab, developing academic games that incorporate standard learning and gaming design methods. Working closely with Texas A&M to ensure the Variant series is well researched, executed and tested, educators and gaming veterans have created an experience whereby students don't just memorize and regurgitate information, but rather apply it for a more well-rounded understanding. The company won an Impact award last week from the Texas Motion Picture Association.

Developed to transform the process of learning calculus into a three-dimensional visual and relatable experience, Variant: Limits focuses on the concepts of finite limits, continuity and infinite limits. Students use their experiences within the game to construct and retain Calculus knowledge, and they gain immediate feedback on their performance. Learning is reported via the instructor portal so faculty know exactly how a student is grasping and applying information.

Triseum recently raised $1.4 million to build educational games. It recently released ARTé: Mecenas, which teaches students how to appreciate art and the business of art during the Renaissance. The game is coming on the PC first, with mobile after that.

Staffjoy raises $1.2 million to help small businesses manage workflow scheduling

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 08:00 AM PST

Creating shifts in Staffjoy.

Staffjoy launched in 2015 with the aim of giving small businesses the technology to improve scheduling of hourly workers. Today, the company announced the next phase of its offering and shared that it has raised a $1.2 million seed round led by Caffeinated Capital.

Additional participants in the latest funding round include Brainchild Holdings and Haystack Fund.

The company is a byproduct of a scheduling algorithm project founders Andrew Hess and Philip Thomas worked out while enrolled at Washington University at St. Louis. In its current form, it tackles the otherwise manual process of scheduling workers in shifts. Employees enter their availability each week, and the system’s algorithm does all the calculations and logistical work needed to make sure that the right number of workers are in place each day, accounting for whether they’re full-time or part-time.

Staffjoy says it has improved upon its system with an updated web app that uses a text message bot to send employees their new schedule for the week, as well as any pertinent updates. Workers no longer need to download an app to figure out when they’re reporting for duty.

"Our user research shows that the reason so many businesses use paper or spreadsheets to schedule is that workers don't use smartphones or even email. We found text messaging to be the best way to engage with employees," Thomas said in a statement. "In fact, we found that many managers screenshot existing scheduling apps and text the schedule to their team."

The seed investment will allow Staffjoy to further accelerate its growth. The company is one of the first participants of Y Combinator’s now shuttered Fellowship class. Staffjoy had previously raised $12,000 through YC in 2015 and an undisclosed bridge round last year.

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TwitchCon 2017 is slated for October 20 in Long Beach

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 08:00 AM PST

Twitch is growing.

Pack your swimsuits, because Twitch is going to the beach.

Twitch revealed today that its annual TwitchCon event will take place this year from October 20 to October 22 at Long Beach, California. Last year’s event, which took place in San Diego, attracted more than 35,000 fans. The show often brings with it announcements of new features for the gaming live-streaming site, which has over 100 million users a month.

Twitch isn’t just about gaming these days. The site has expanded, notably with the new “creative” channel category, which allows people to broadcast their artistic endeavors like painting and music.

"It was through the passion of our creators, exhibitors, and fans that TwitchCon doubled in size in its first two years," said Krystal Herring, event director of TwitchCon, in a press release sent to GamesBeat. "Our goal this year is to continue celebrating all things Twitch, including the newer broader scope of content on our platform. With our IRL (in real life) category for vlogging and our upcoming mobile streaming app, even people who can't attend will be able to connect with their favorite broadcasters and friends who can."

Twitch noted that additional details for the event, including ticket sales and a schedule, will follow in the coming months.

Wikimedia Foundation nabs $3 million grant to improve accessibility of free Commons content

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 06:43 AM PST

Wikimedia Commons

The Wikimedia Foundation may be better known for a vast crowdsourced online encyclopedia called Wikipedia, but the not-for-profit also operates a repository of free-to-use media assets — including photos, audio clips, and videos — called Wikimedia Commons, the content of which is used to illustrate other Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia.

As with other Wikimedia Foundation projects, Wikimedia Commons is funded through donations, and the organization has now received a chunky $3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a philanthropic body set up in 1934 by the former president and CEO of General Motors.

But why a grant specifically for Wikimedia Commons? Well, as things stand, the 35 million media assets hosted on Commons are described by “casual notation,” as the company puts it, making it difficult to search within the vast resource. With $3 million in the coffers, however, the Wikimedia Foundation says it will embark on a three-year mission to link assets on Wikimedia Commons with Wikidata, the organization’s crowdsourced knowledge base.

The upshot of this endeavor is that photos, videos, and all the rest will be much easier to find and that, crucially, the repository will be “machine-readable.” This opens up a wealth of opportunities to automate the process of integrating content into third-party services, such as apps and services operated by museums, galleries, and libraries. It will also make it easier for third parties to donate content to Wikimedia Commons by automatically including existing metadata, bypassing the need to manually label media.

Example from Wikimedia Commons: Public transport during winter 2014 in Bucharest, capital of Romania.  

It’s encouraging that bodies such as the Wikimedia Foundation are receiving support at a time when internet censorship is a growing concern for many. Fellow not-for-profit organization the Internet Archive has been engaging in a number of initiatives lately to ensure online information is preserved for posterity. Last January, it launched the Political TV Ad Archive to help journalists fact-check claims made during political campaigning. And it recently revealed plans to build a replica database in Canada in response to concerns over censorship under the impending Trump presidency. Last week, it also announced the Trump Archive, a compendium of everything Donald Trump has said on video in recent years.

“At a time when the world wide web, like the rest of the world, is beset by increasing polarization, commercialization, and narrowing, Wikipedia continues to serve as a shining, global counter-example of open collaborative knowledge sharing and consensus building presented in a reliable context with a neutral point of view, free of fake news and false information, that emphasizes how we can come together to build the sum of all human knowledge,” said Doron Weber, vice president and program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “We all need Wikipedia, its sister projects, its technology, and its values, now more than ever.”

Digit bot has saved people $250 million and is now available on Facebook Messenger

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 06:00 AM PST

Digit bot sends you an SMS every day to tell you your bank account balance and occasionally remind you how much money has been saved in a Digit savings account

Digit, a bot that automatically draws money into a savings account, is now available on Facebook Messenger.

Since Digit bot was created in 2015, it has helped its users save $250 million, the company says.

To use Digit, connect the bot to your checking account. The bot then takes out money each day and places it into a separate savings account. Milestones are marked with funny GIFs or memes.

Based on your spending habits, an algorithm determines the amount of money Digit can take out without the user noticing it’s gone, what CEO Ethan Bloch referred to as operating “on the fringes of your budget.”

Digit on Facebook Messenger

Above: Digit on Facebook Messenger

Image Credit: Digit

A feature to help users save a portion of their tax return will again be available this year, through iOS and Android apps and the new Facebook Messenger bot.

The bot will also begin to help customers save money for specific expenses, like a trip or wedding.

“We think there's a great place for machine learning and automation around this idea of making sure you can pay all your bills on time and in full,” Bloch told VentureBeat in a phone interview.

New features may help Digit compete in a growing field of fintech personal finance offerings.

Another potential change for Digit is the ability to save your cash at different banks.

Today, all Digit savings accounts are held by Wells Fargo. That’s important for Digit, so much so that Bloch says “Digit would not exist today were it not for Wells Fargo.”

But the company has heard from customers who are unhappy that their money is being saved at Wells Fargo, a bank that fired more than 5,000 employees for wrongdoing last fall and was penalized by the Justice Department in 2012 for targeting communities of color during the subprime mortgage crisis.

“We've gotten to a level of scale that we can work with more banks to move money within the U.S. banking system — to one, give us redundancy, and two, potentially give customers an option should they not want to have any of their business run through Wells Fargo,” Bloch said.

Digit has raised $36 million from investors like Google Ventures, Baseline, and General Catalyst Partners.

Applied Acoustics International Names Tony Daines Chief Marketing Officer

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 05:34 AM PST


Proven Commercial Leader with Engineering, Design and Manufacturing Expertise joins AAI


Applied Acoustics International® (AAI™), a Tier 1 supplier of noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) solutions to the North American automotive industry, today announced the appointment of Tony Daines as Chief Marketing Officer. Reporting directly to CEO Larry Hagood, Daines will drive sales, business development, and marketing initiatives to expand commercial opportunities with current and prospective automakers, and Tier I suppliers to the North America automotive industry. AAI has been a trusted supplier to Japanese automakers manufacturing in the Americas since 1986.

Mr. Daines will leverage his 20+ years of experience in the automotive industry to grow AAI market share and accelerate revenue growth. Prior to joining AAI, Tony Daines served as Chief Marketing Officer for the Adler Pelzer Group NAFTA business unit, leading over $400 million in global commercial activity for the Tier 1 supplier of automotive acoustics, carpet, and soft trim systems. Tony held previous Global Customer Director and VP Sales roles at Adler Pelzer Group, achieving significant revenue growth through customer diversification and new product introductions in support of new vehicle platforms. Before Adler Pelzer Group, Daines designed passenger seating systems as a lead engineer for Lear Corporation, a world leader in luxury and performance automotive seating. Mr. Daines began his career in project and mechanical engineering roles at Johnson Controls and GEC Marconi.

“Tony is skilled at delivering results and creating successful outcomes in complex situations,” said Larry Hagood, CEO for Applied Acoustics International. “In our view, Tony is the perfect addition to our team to help accelerate the growth of Applied Acoustics International.”

“I am very excited to be joining the AAI team as they enter a new phase of focused growth and product innovation to OEM and Tier 1 customers,” said Tony Daines, Chief Marketing Officer for Applied Acoustics International. “I look forward to helping AAI achieve its full potential.”

Tony Daines earned a Post Graduate Diploma in Manufacturing Management and Technology from the Open University in Essex, England. Daines also achieved a Higher National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering from Basildon Community College in the UK.

About Applied Acoustics International

We Engineer Quiet™. Applied Acoustics International (AAI) is a Tier 1 supplier of noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) solutions to the North American automotive industry. Based in Chicago Heights, Illinois, AAI occupies a leading market position within the NVH industry, specializing in damper and EVA barrier materials. Learn more online at

About Angeles Equity Partners, LLC

Angeles Equity Partners is a private equity firm that invests in companies across a wide range of industrial sectors and specifically targets businesses which it believes can directly benefit from the firm’s deep expertise in operational transformation and strategic repositioning. This skill set drives the firm’s investment philosophy and, in its view, can help underperforming businesses reach their full potential. Learn more online at

Applied Acoustics International
Trenton Waterhouse, +1 623-523-1672

Apple, Facebook, and Google top Greenpeace energy report card, but Amazon disappoints

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 05:25 AM PST

Wind Farms

Tech companies love to tout how energy efficient and sustainable their data centers are getting. Now it appears that progress is being made toward sustainability, according to the “Clicking Clean” report released Tuesday by the environmental watchdog group Greenpeace. The advocacy group uses the annual report to rate big cloud computing and other tech companies on their use of renewable power, and how active they are in promoting others to do the same.

For 2016, Greenpeace said Facebook, Apple, and Google — which first pledged to go to 100 percent renewable energy four years ago — remain the standard bearers, each getting an overall grade of A.

Greenpeace uses what it calls a clean energy index to sum up the amount of clean energy companies use from renewable sources, plus hydroelectric power. It also assesses how open and transparent a company is about its energy sources and planning, as well as how much firms advocate for the use of clean energy.

Data center energy use is very important because the computers and other gear that run information technology currently suck up an estimated 7% of the world’s electricity

Microsoft and Salesforce got Bs in the report, while Amazon Web Services received a C. Greenpeace, which has dinged Amazon for not being transparent enough about its energy use and planning, did so again, giving it an F in this category this year.


Above: Scorecard

AWS did commit to some big clean energy deals last year, including the use of wind power farms in North Carolina and Texas. However, Greenpeace noted that because of Amazon’s “continued lack of transparency and its rapid growth in Virginia and other markets largely served by dirty energy, it remains unclear whether the AWS cloud is actually on a path to becoming renewably powered.”

Greenpeace senior IT analyst Gary Cook acknowledged those big renewable deals, but noted that “you have to remember they were starting from way behind Google and others and, as you know, AWS is still growing at a massive scale.”

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

This story originally appeared on Copyright 2017

Flash storage startup Kaminario raises $75 million

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 05:00 AM PST

Kaminario flash storage

Kaminario, a startup that sells all-flash storage hardware, today announced a $75 million funding round.

Founded in 2008, the Newton, Massachusetts-based startup carries out its research and development in Israel, where it has a team of engineers just outside of Haifa. Dani Golan, Kaminario’s founder and CEO, told VentureBeat in an interview: “There are three places today where storage technologies are being developed: Silicon Valley, the Boston area, and Israel. We have two out of three, which is not bad!”

Kaminario, which released its product in 2014, provides hardware, software, and services for companies’ data centers, both in private clouds and public clouds. The product is built from the ground up for all-flash, as opposed to transforming existing legacy hard disk drive-based products to flash. The hardware, software, and services start at $200,000.

Customers, which according to Golan are in the hundreds, include Priceline, Telefónica, and Nuance Communications. Kaminario’s competitors range from scrappers like Pure Storage, Nimble Storage, and NetApp’s SolidFire to enterprise storage giants like Hitachi, HP, and Golan’s former employer, EMC. “We are at the heart of what I consider the two most significant revolutions in IT in the last two decades,” said Golan. “One is the cloud and the other is flash.”

Hong Kong-based private equity firm Waterwood led this latest round of funding. New investor CE Ventures, along with existing investors Sequoia Capital, Pitango Venture Capital, Lazarus, Silicon Valley Bank, and Globespan Capital Partners, also joined. The new money will be used to expand globally and further product development. Kaminario currently has 235 employees.

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Lionsgate and Michael Milken invest in esports team The Immortals

Posted: 10 Jan 2017 05:00 AM PST

The Immortals' CS:GO team (left to right) Henrique "Hen1" Teles, João

The esports business is attracting more high-end investors. Today, film studio Lionsgate and financier Michael Milken are investing in the professional esports team The Immortals.

After many years in the wilderness, esports has matured. It grew to $892 million in 2016, according to market researcher SuperData Research. And the investors in the market are in a bit of a rush to stake out territory that they believe will be valuable in the future. In this case, investors with considerable financial and entertainment clout are stepping up to participate in esports.

Previous investors who are also contributing include Steve Kaplan, cofounder of Oaktree Capital and co-owner of The Memphis Grizzlies basketball team; investor Gregory Milken; Third Wave entrepreneur Allen DeBevoise; and CrossCut Ventures, among others.

The Immortals currently compete worldwide for over 200 million fans in League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, and Super Smash Brothers.

Peter Levin of Lionsgate is bullish on the medium of VR.

Above: Peter Levin of Lionsgate is bullish on the medium of VR.

Image Credit: VentureBeat

"We're delighted to be an early mover in a market that has the potential to transform the face of sports entertainment," said Lionsgate president of Interactive Ventures & Games, Peter Levin, in a statement. "Our involvement in eSports creates tremendous opportunities to develop new content and utilize our suite of distribution platforms for a coveted consumer demographic with compelling engagement metrics. Collaborating with an elite group of partners, the combination of the Lionsgate and Immortals brands will be formidable."

The esports business is getting to be a lot like pro physical sports. The Immortals was formed in September of 2015 with the acquisition of Team 8.  And The Immortals acquired another pro team recently: Tempo Storm‘s Counter-Strike group, as part of an attempt to establish a powerhouse franchise in a fledgling industry.

"Lionsgate joins a dream team of media, tech, and traditional sports partners who share our vision of building a dynamic Immortals organization and a strong e-sports foundation," said Immortals chairman and CrossCut Ventures managing director Clinton Foy, in a statement. "What we're doing today in eSports is like the early days of building the NFL and NBA. It's not the evolution of games — it's the evolution of sports, technology, and media."

Lionsgate's investment in Immortals is the latest step in the company's esports initiatives. Last year, Pilgrim Media Group, in which Lionsgate is a majority investor, announced that it was partnering with ESL, the world's largest eSports promoter, to create original esports entertainment content for television and digital platforms. Their first collaboration, in partnership with Microsoft, will be centered around the gaming brand Halo.

"Lionsgate is the perfect entrepreneurial partner for our Immortals family," said Immortals CEO Noah Whinston, in a statement. "Immortals and Lionsgate are both focused on developing new entertainment formats, and we're thrilled to collaborate with them at the cutting edge of eSports media."

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